Wednesday, November 6, 2013

"Numberphobic" Needs To Learn Math!

Dear Tazi:

I have a problem that I am not sure how to address: I am an adult and I have never learned how to count money or balance a checkbook.

I never had an allowance as a child; my parents always paid for everything or gave me exact change for things like movie tickets with friends. For Christmas and birthdays I would get gift cards, so I never had to worry about making sure the cashiers gave me proper change. As an adult, I put everything on my credit card and pay the balance at the end of the month or use my debit card, making darn sure that the balance is high enough that my charges will not result in overdraft. I have never over-drafted and I have excellent credit, so I must be doing something right!

My situation becomes a problem because my boyfriend and I are talking about moving in together – and sharing our expenses. He has asked me to take care of the finances because he believes I am good with money, seeing as how I pay off my credit cards every month and have never, ever bounced a check. How do I tell him the truth, that I can’t do basic math?


Dear Numberphobic:

Take a deep breath and exhale slowly, letting out your stress and fear with it. Doesn't that feel good? Now, repeat after me: “I am not the only adult in America who cannot count money”. Believe it or not, you aren't. A lot of Americans cannot handle this basic concept, and with the propensity of credit and debit card use rising all the time the issue is becoming more and more severe – so much so that community colleges and community centers are offering course in basic business math, where students learn how to count money and make change; reconcile a checking account statement; calculate simple and compound interest; and figure commissions and taxes on sales and purchases.

Cats are good at math, but not this good!

Your boyfriend has asked you to take charge of your finances because he thinks you are good at it. Could it be that he, too, has never mastered the skill of handling money? I suggest that the best way to tell your boyfriend that you cannot do basic math is to tell him that you cannot do basic math. The direct way is always the best way to deliver a simple truth. Explain to him that you have never over-drafted your accounts because you prefer to use a credit card or gift card to pay for purchases, which cannot overdraft, and that you have never actually reconciled your checking account at the end of the month. He may be surprised, but that shock is only because you appear so capable.

If your boyfriend knows how to count money and balance a checkbook, ask him to teach you; it can be a project you undertake as a couple and a step in the right direction for you as individuals, and as a couple. I firmly believe that both members of a relationship should be aware of the joint finances. If your boyfriend is also weak in the area of personal bookkeeping the two of you should take a class together in order to get these skills down pat. Consider it just one more way the two of you can grow as a couple.


Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with Bachelors degrees in Communications and in Gender and Women's Studies. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

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